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Date: 30 March 2010

Sharks circling Scottish Water - UNISON

The largest union in Scottish Water, UNISON, today accused government agencies of being part of a concerted campaign to use the financial crisis as cover for the privatisation of Scotland’s water.

In launching its policy briefing Defend Scotland’s Water, the union pointed to previous statements in favour of privatisation by the Water Industry Commission Chair, Sir Ian Byatt; the recent announcement by The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) that it is looking at privatisation; and the comments of one of the Scottish Government’s ‘Independent’ Budget Review panel members – Crawford Beveridge - on BBC Newsnight Scotland last night, suggesting this issue should be examined again.

Speaking at a meeting of UNISON water representatives, Dave Watson UNISON Scottish Organiser said:
“The sharks are circling again around Scotland’s greatest asset – our water. The regulatory regime has been preparing Scottish Water for privatisation for some time, driven by the ideological zeal of the Water Industry Commission Chair, Sir Ian Byatt. He has been joined by the SFT led by another privatisation advocate and banker, Sir Angus Grossart. Given this concerted campaign supported by the private sector who are keen to get their hands on our water at a knock down price, we need to make it crystal clear, that water is both, an essential public service, and, given the global water crisis, one of Scotland’s greatest economic assets.”

The UNISON briefing outlines the huge costs of privatisation to the water charge payer, including higher borrowing costs, billing systems, and dividends It also points to the beneficiaries of privatisation being the corporate financiers, consultants and company directors – particularly of the big overseas water multinationals who would target the privatised company.

UNISION also points to the continued ‘marking down’ of the value of Scottish Water’s assets, from £15bn when the corporation was created, down to current discussions of around £1bn, This is in order to make the package an attractive price for the private sector, particularly given the massive programme of investments the taxpayer has funded. Despite this investment and the additional costs of delivering this service in Scotland charges are lower than the UK average.

UNISON also rejects the supposed ‘alternative’ of mutualisation. Dave Watson said:
“In a capital intensive industry like water, mutualisation is not a co-operative solution. All services would be delivered by private water companies with all the costs of privatisation. It sounds cuddly and safe, but in reality it is a Trojan horse for privatisation. “UNISON, along with the STUC and the other unions involved in the water industry have been engaged in the debate about the future of Scottish Water, and we all believe that we should join with the worldwide movement in favour of democratisation of this essential service*.”


Note for Editors:

1) The UNISON briefing is available on the UNISONScotland website at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/water/defendscotlandswater_mar2010.pdf

2) *The unions have produced a discussion paper It’s Scotland’s Water outlining ways to greater accountability for Scottish Water. It is available on the UNISON website at http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/water/scotland's_water.pdf

For Further Information Please Contact:
Dave Watson (Scottish Organiser) 07958 122 409 (m)
Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0771 558 3729 (m)